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back to article Museum of Computing recognised as PROPER MUSEUM

The Museum of Computing has been awarded full accreditation with the Arts Council of England, which means it is now officially a brilliant curator of all things tech. The museum, which is located in Swindon town centre and open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, was required to meet stringent standards to bag the …

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It's worth a visit

I'm glad that the Swindon MoC has achieved this - Simon and the volunteers put in a LOT of effort to keep it running. It's well worth a visit if you're ever in Swindon, they have a fine collection of old computers and consoles, many of them in full working order.

Full disclosure... I (far too seldom) help out with activities and teaching at the MoC!

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Silver badge

Now if only some of the reg hacks can visit it and learn that there was something other than Macs and PCs in the 80s and 90s... ;-)

The evolution of computing can be very interesting, but only if presented well and in context - it doesn't have to be exceedingly dry. Seeing the various advances as they were made and how they were received in the market (or not in some cases) is a curious thing to observe and could be an object lesson for investors, not just the curious. The changing role of computing within society, from military, education and then into business finance and from this moving to all areas is a huge topic all of itself. There are still quite a lot of people around who remember the "computing room" (aka basement) that could effortlessly provide heat for the rest of the building. Puts into context the thermal envelopes of modern systems.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Macs and PCs..

"Now if only some of the reg hacks can visit it and learn that there was something other than Macs and PCs in the 80s and 90s... ;-)"

Ha. Don't worry, some of us were using Acorn RISC OS kit through the 1980s and 1990s.

Also, as for the museums, Bletchley Park, The National Museum of Computing (also in Bletchley) and Swindon's Museum of Computing are all separate things. Correct me if I'm wrong.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm, must go and visit my donation then..

I know the guy who started it all, IMHO one of the cleverest lawyers I have had the pleasure to deal with (sadly I haven't found time of late to hop in there, he's doing quite well - and yes, there are good lawyers too). If I recall correctly he was either in a Swindon computer club or I have visited him in context of a Psion Organiser meet.

At the time I donated a Psion Organiser I (yes, ONE) because it was one of the last around - the reason I got it was because I was busy clearing out old crap somewhere and one was still presentatble. I think it even started up, but the "i" was, well, totally useless. The Organiser II is when all hell broke loose, because it was basically the first PDA as well as one of the first sensibly portable computers. Ah, those were the days..

I wish them the best of luck!

Anon - 'coz they know who I am..

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Devil

Why isn't our national museum of computing in Bletchley Park?

That would seem the obvious place to me....

Who wants to go to Swindon?

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Jad
Go

Re: Why isn't our national museum of computing in Bletchley Park?

I used to live in Swindon and all I can say is:

"The M4 goes straight past Swindon, and I would suggest you do the same."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why isn't our national museum of computing in Bletchley Park?

Who wants to go to Swindon? Good question.

Intel did, when they arrived in the UK. Got off the plane at Heathrow and headed towards Wales till they found somewhere they could actually afford office space, so the story goes.

Are Intel UK still a significant employer in Swindon? A significant contributor to this organisation?

Bletchley Park's museum has already been mentioned. There's also the Centre for Computing History, currently in Suffolk, planning to move to Cambridge. You can never have too many computer museums, can you?

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/

What does The Arts Council know about computers anyway? Museums of old arty things, maybe they do know about. But computers are not old (in museum terms) and not really in the Arts Councils core (sic) competencies? Wtf?

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Joke

As someone who grew up in a town in Berkshire...

...I have heard of this mythical Swindon - the tales are of magic on the highways - of travellers being driven round in circles while trying to navigate through the cursed town of swine. I NEVER want to go there.

And also, are you sure the computer museum doesn't happen to be the Swindon branch of PC World? I have heard rumours that their stock is so out dated that it could actually be considered museum material.

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Boffin

Re: Why isn't our national museum of computing in Bletchley Park?

The National Museum of Computing (www.tnmoc.org/) is at Bletchley.

The Museum of Computing (www.museum-of-computing.org.uk) is in Swindon.

These are two distinct organisations.

Yes it's confusing.

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Re: Why isn't our national museum of computing in Bletchley Park?

Swindon.....City of To-mo-rrow.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why isn't our national museum of computing in Bletchley Park?

And the People's Front of Judaea...

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Childcatcher

Re: Who wants to go to Swindon?

I always thought that Swindon was a perfectly acceptable place, I mean the Magic Roundabout is absolutly hilarious.

But the thought of a Museum of computing; anyone who would want to visit abviously did not live the experience. All those anonymous boxes and tape machines, and blinking lights and bloody great line printers crashing away. The first one I got my hands on had punched tape input; oh, paper mangling tape readers. The thought gives me the willies. You get more fun in a car factory. Did I say Honda is in Swindon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why isn't our national museum of computing in Bletchley Park?

It is.

The 'Museum of Computing' is a computing museum based in Swindon.

Bletchley Park is the National Code Breaking Centre in Buckinghamshire and tells the story of the World War II code breaking that took place there.

'The National Museum of Computing' (TNMoC) is an organisationally separate tenant of Bletchley Park located in Block H, and is home to the Colossus and Tunny Rebuilds - providing part of the Bletchley Park story, but also much more.

Incidentally, TNMoC is also home to an amazing collection of Acorn/RISC OS kit - right through from the System 1 to a Phoebe Prototype, which I'm currently in the process of curating. You should visit sometime Chris.

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Pirate

Please tell the hacks that

Computers did exist before 1980 and 1970

We didn't worry about silly patents back then either.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Please tell the hacks that

J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, developers of the ENIAC machine at the University of Pennsylvania, were the first to patent an electronic digital computer. In 1973, however, U.S. District Judge Earl R. Larson overturned the ENIAC patents, writing, "Eckert and Mauchly did not themselves first invent the automatic electronic digital computer, but instead derived that subject matter from one Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff."

http://archive.news.iastate.edu/news/2009/dec/ABC

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Good for them :-)

I've visited the museum twice, and both times (to coin Tom Lehrer's phrase) "the air was soggy with nostalgia". The range of exhibits there has to be seen to be believed - for one, they have an example of just about every machine I remember from the early-80s home computer boom (Oric 1, Dragon 32, Speccy, ZX80/81, C64, VIC20... I think they had a Grundy NewBrain too). It was fun chatting with the staff about which machines I remembered, owned, etc. - I bet they get that a lot there...

I'm on the Museum's mailing list, and they just announced they've taken delivery of their first Raspberry Pi (nearly two months after I did, I thought with a smudge of smugness). They run kids' programming activities, and are trying to get a Hackspace off the ground (subject to interest).

So a thumbs-up from me - they deserve this :-)

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Bronze badge

Promoting safe computing?

Given that these museums attract large numbers of parents and children, perhaps they would be appropriate places to provide suggestions about safe computing.

As various Reg readers have pointed out, mandatory opt-ins at ISP level to a sanitised internet won't actually provide much protection against predators and won't stop youngsters getting hold of pr0n. But, equally, there must be many parents who would like to make their home computer 'safer' but don't know how to use OpenDNS etc..

It would do more for safety to make simple and appropriate solutions common knowledge than to try to impose government mandated censorship.

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Big Brother

Re: Promoting safe computing?

Don't be silly, how can we protect kiddies from all the eeeeevilll paedos and criminals and terrorists out there without State control? (Signed T.May MP )

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Joke

Re: Promoting safe computing?

Simple, get them enthusiastic about old computers, then get them a speccy. Pr0n and viruses aren't likely to be much of a problem then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Promoting safe computing?

What has "safe computing" and the delusion that computer configuration can ever realistically stop well-informed kids from getting to what they are looking for got to do with the history of computer hardware?

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Paris Hilton

Re: Promoting safe computing?

If I practice safe computing, do you reckon I should mention so on any on-line dating profiles I may use? I wouldnt want to to end up with a barebacker - someone who has an unencrypted wireless router for example!

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Bronze badge

Re: Promoting safe computing?

"What has 'safe computing' ... got to do with the history of computer hardware?"

At these museums there is a steady stream of parents, a largish proportion of whom are likely to be both concerned about protecting their children and not terribly knowledgeable about computing. Given that it's a computer museum which they are visiting this might well be an appropriate place for a small display (CD, USB stick, leaflets, web address or whatever) with details of what can and can't be done, together with instructions for configuring browsers and appropriate Open Source software.

Of course, like most Reg readers, I know that there are limitations and that the major risks can't be eliminated with technology. But many people don't know this and would welcome independent advice about what can be done from a reasonably authoritative source.

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Good for them!

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The history of computing

Could well be summarised by:

Dozens of makers of home computers plied their incompatible wares through the late 70s and early 80s. Just as some of them started to agree on a standard (MSX), they woke up one morning to discover a 9000-pound gorilla had parked itself in the front yard.

The PC was fiendlshly expensive, ugly, slow and had laughable graphics capabilities. Most things that home computer users of the time took for granted were pricey optional extras, but it had three magic letters on the case: "IBM" - and that's what made it desireable to business users. From there, the business computer went home.

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Re: The history of computing

@Alan Brown: you seem to be confusing the history of computing with the history of home computing.

The late 70s that you refer to was preceded by about 40 years of computing history, during which most of the important developments were made. The 30-odd years since then have seen immense refinement, but with the possible exception of networking, little fundamental change.

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Holmes

TNMOC

Went to Bletchley and was feeling all nostalgic for the old home kit i used to play with as a kid. It was more of a shock to see the Sun E6500 and HP V and L class boxes and then realise I was installing these buggers less thatn 10 years ago!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Conveniently located

Next to the lap dancing club and burrito kiosk - classy!

Blow your mind, your wad and your guts!

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Gold badge

3 computer museums

Excellent. We've got 3 computer museums, now we need a plan to make them more popular.

1. Make them incompatible, and impossible to share information across.

2. Get groups of people to be fans of just one, and have discussions/arguments/fights about which is better.

3. Charge extortionately more for one, so that it gets only rich fans.

4. Get one to have lots of innovative and exciting new ways to display the information, but make it impossibly hard to find your way round. Maybe have an invisible entrance door or something.

5. Start a new computer museum every couple of years, and make it miles better than all the others, so they look laughably out of date.

Ahhh. Nostalgia...

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Anonymous Coward

But the yanks invested computers, and smarties, apparently?

Iowa State University claim to have invented the first electronic computer, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) computer, between 1939 and 1942.

As a brit and knowing about Bletchley Park this was news to me. Can anyone comment...?

http://archive.news.iastate.edu/news/2009/dec/ABC

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Swindon!

Plessey semiconductors had their chip fab plant there, producing many wonderful analogue and digital chips and there are many other high-tech companies there too: Intel and of course Motorola are there, along with other big companies such as Castrol Burmah, Nationwide, Zurich, Honda (x2), BMW, WH Smith, MAN, Triumph (bras!), Fairchild Semiconductors, Johnson Controls, Square-D, Dialog Semiconductors, etc. Did you know the NHS was based on Brunel's medical scheme for the Railway Village workers of the GWR in Swindon? The National Document archive is there as well as the Bodleian library, the Science Research Council, the fantastic STEAM railway museum and the Richard Jeffries museum. Famous Swindonians are XTC, , Billie Piper, Desmond Morris, Diana Dors, Melinda Messenger, Mark Lamarr, Julian Clary (and me!).

I know Simon from the 70s and he is a nice chap. I visited the museum last year with my son and we had a wonderful time. I was like a kid in a toy shop looking at and remembering all the old computers and my son loved the games consoles and machines. The museum is situated behind the wonderful old hall and new library.

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FAIL

Goddam!

I didn't spend 3 years at University doing my BSc, jeering at Arts students as they contemplate life and inspiration, only to be bloody managed by them :(((

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